The Life of an Introvert: O-Week

(Graphic by Adele Palmquist).

When I applied for university I was dreadfully nervous to start a new chapter of my life away from my home, friends and family. Like most young people going to university, I worried about whether or not I would make new friends, do well in my classes and enjoy the student life. To some there is a great deal of excitement moving in to your new home for the next eight months. I was terrified.

I was hoping to have my own room. Instead I was assigned to live in Conrad Hall, an all-girls residence with shared rooms. For someone who has never shared a room in her life, has grown up with brothers and who is incredibly introverted, I stressed about meeting new people.

For some people who are more extroverted, the idea of meeting lots of new people, shouting until you lose your voice during O-Week and the loud atmosphere are a delight. For the introvert it is a nightmare you can’t pinch yourself out of.

Now, I’m not saying O-Week is not enjoyable for a quiet individual, but it can be overwhelming and I know it was for me. I do well meeting people either one-on-one or in small groups and having legitimate conversations. I am terrible at starting conversations in larger groups of people I am not familiar with… and I am terrible at small talk or on the spot questions. For my fellow introverts you will know what I mean, for those who don’t let me give you an example:

My don on my floor had all 14 of the girls of DB-hall (the basement—a.k.a “dirty basement”) gather in our lounge to have a quick meeting and a chance to get to know each other before we left for activities. Our don decided the best way to break the ice was to go around the room and have everyone share something about them they assume no one else will have in common with them. If someone shares a similar experience, the individual then has to come up with another unique trait or experience. I don’t really recall what everyone was saying. There were probably things I related to but never even considered answering because– in my mind– I was literally having a meltdown. To answer questions on the spot has never been a great strength for me! I internalize nearly everything, so I will continue to think about a question while I am alone and how I could have answered it better. This particular question I have thought of over and over again.

Before I knew it, it was my turn. Crap. I give my name, what I study—okay, cool someone else is in the same program as me—so… what is my answer? Without having time to think, the program I study on my mind—English—I blurt out without even thinking: “I look up words in the dictionary!” Oh God. Did I really just say that? Everyone is quiet and it gets super awkward super quick. What was I thinking? Well, at least that is over and we can move on now! Until one girl, clearly trying to be nice and feeling sorry for me says, “Uh, yeah…me too!” Seriously? Now I have to come up with another unique thing about me and as terrible and awkward as the first, I end up blabbing about how I was born with my left foot turned inwards, “but as you can see, it was fixed!” DUH.

How I made any friends in first year still baffles me.

Some of you are probably wondering why, if I am an introvert, am I writing this blog and not hiding away in my cave far away from civilization like a hermit because, you know, introverts are like that. While I can admit without a shame I am most definitely weird and awkward in every way, this does not mean I wish to hide away from the world and everyone in it. I actually really like going to new places and meeting people, but I like to go at my own pace and with as little chaos as possible. I don’t like a lot of unnecessary noise and over-crowding, but it doesn’t mean I only want to spent time alone; I do need to interact and have fun! I love to laugh and have a good time, but I also value being alone just to relax and think, or no have to think at all. I love writing and artsy things; expressing myself in other ways rather than just talking endlessly. I do like to talk about personal things with close friends and family, but I can only allow so much of that, so the rest I express artistically on my own.

I want other introverts coming to Laurier, university or college or even embarking on something new in life to know that it is possible to be active socially even as an introvert. There are a lot more of us out there than you realize and I think the best way to understanding what it is to be an introvert is by hearing it from another introvert.

Though my first O-Week experience was a little awkward as the week went on, I made more friends, became close with my roommate and had a great year. There are going to be moments that may be awkward or you may doubt yourself, but I think it is really important to do what you know and just be yourself. I was quiet and awkward, but I still had a great time!

I won’t lie, I may have just mumbled half the cheers during O-Week, but I made sure to go out to every event, have a blast at the concerts and meet some incredible people along the way. As cheesy as it may sound, the only way you’ll feel good about that week is if you be yourself.

Starting classes? For my fellow introverts, be warned: group work and group discussion. Now, though I generally am not jumping for joy when professors or T.As call for group discussion, I actually interact very well with smaller groups so it works out well for me. For those introverts that regardless cannot work well in groups: you’ve been warned. You’ll get through it; try to give ideas about course material or what is being asked. If you have a hard time coming up with answers on the spot I found it most useful when I could go off a point my fellow classmates would make. The more others gave input, the more I found myself being able to answer on the spot. It’s worth a try!

I still struggle with profs and TAs asking questions on the spot, but if you look around the room sometimes the seemingly most extroverted person may get stumped too. Remember that everyone is adjusting to school too, something I always tried to keep in mind. I had an instance where I was referred to as “girl with the sweater” even though there were five other girls with sweaters — so, naturally I did not clue in until the T.A became irritated with my lack of response. Awkward, but not the end of the world! Also, that too—don’t be surprised if most people can’t remember your name for the first few weeks of school…especially if you’re quiet or have a doppelganger – most people have at least one classmate in their lifetime that looks oddly similar to them…or even nothing like them, but for whatever reason people think they do.

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